The Nature Conservancy transferred two conservation easements over the 2,067-acre Cunningham Ranch to the California Rangeland Trust in the early part of 2005. Adjacent to the 3,861-acre Nelson Cattle Ranch where the California Rangeland Trust also holds a conservation easement, the Cunningham Ranch easements help to establish connectivity of preserved working landscapes in the Great Central Valley. With UC Merced spurring growth just miles away, these conservation agreements will help to balance as well as temper growth patterns in the surrounding region. The ranch provides valuable habitat for native wildlife species, including raptors, waterfowl, vernal pool invertebrates, fairy shrimp, other vernal pool crustaceans and many other common and rare plants and animals. In spring, the vernal pools blossom for a spectacular sight. The easements also preserve one of the region’s most noteworthy historical ranches. James Cunningham, a sea captain, established the original ranch in 1851 and the original adobe still stands on the Nelson Cattle Ranch. The conservation agreements ensure that the core of the original Cunningham Ranch will be preserved in perpetuity.